THICH HUYEN VI
BUDDHISM PROMOTES PEACE AND HARMONY AMONG MEN
NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMA SAMBUDDHASSA
Venerable and Friends,
Before I speak to you on the subject matter of this Conference I want to throw light on what is called Religion. What is Religion? Religion is an experience. Buddhist Scriptures, the Tipitaka, place on record the experience of the Buddha who grappled with the fundamental reality. It is not doctrinal conformity or ceremonial piety, but it is participation in the mystery of being. It is wisdom or insight into reality. There cannot be any scripture or teaching of that which cannot be adequately expressed. (1) Religion is the permanent element in human nature which considers no price too great in order to find full expression. The essence of all religion is a change in man’s nature. There is no denying a fact that religion has its roots in loneliness. But then it cannot remain isolated in solitary confinement. It has to manifest itself, in society, to associate itself with social conditions and to go beyond its initial privacy. Religion, as an institution, may easily lose contact with its source and can only become a living reality when its members renew their rapport with that original source.
In so many ways, the religious thinkers of the world have laid emphasis on the transcendent unity of religions along with their empirical adversity. The end of religion is one but the means leading to it are numerous. There may be cows of different colors, but the milk we get from them is of one color, white. There may be a variety of lamps but the light, the flame, the illumination they produce is one and the same. We all know the well-known story of the elephant and the six blind men. The different parts each of them stressed, though true, were parts of one whole, different sides of one truth. Mahatma Gandhi wanted to find out the basic truth in all religions. In his opinion, true religion teaches to love all religions and to condemn one. We have the famous Rock Edict of Asoka which tells us to offer respects to other religions. By condemning other religions, he tells us, we hurt our own. An injustice done to others is an injustice done to oneself.
Buddhism is a religion of humanity, kindness and equality. It strives to promote peace and harmony among men. The Buddha appeared on the platform with this unique religion when the sacrificial rituals of the Vedic religion had reached its apex, and the peace of mind of Indian people was much too disturbed. Buddhism set its face against such sacrifices and declared, in clarion voice, the nullity of animal sacrifices.
Though the Buddha was born in India, grew up in its tradition and left an indelible impression on the succession of events that speaks of Indian culture, his message is replete with universal significance. The more we think of him the more we feel that he is the contemporary of every generation. In his Funerals Oration Pericles says, “The whole earth is sepulcher of famous men; and their story is not graven only on stone over their native earth, but lives on, far away without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives”. The great makers of history are universal men, living witnesses to the spirit of profound kinship among men in a world sundered by strife and hatred.
The Buddha adopted the idea of fellowship of faiths. He never spoke disparagingly of others’ beliefs. He always exhorted his followers to avoid doctrinal controversies with others. “If anyone were to find fault or abuse me or the Doctrine or the Noble Order, do not, monks, for that matter, be offended, displeased, or ruffled. If, by any means, you become offended or perturbed, it will be to your own harm. On the other hand, whenever people hurl abuse and criticize, you should pause and think whether what they say contains some truth or whether what they say is just slanderous and false. Likewise, monks, if someone were to praise and glorify me, the Doctrine, or the Noble Order, you should not for that matter, feel particularly elated or please. If you do so, it will be your own. On the contrary, in such an event you should pause and examine the truth of the matter. You should find out whether what they say is actually to be found in us and whethe4r they are correct. (2) But he did not wish his followers to accept statements on authority, to be satisfied with second hand evidence, to believe in miracles and marvels which cannot be empirically repeated. Religion cannot afford to claim exemption from inquiry. The Buddha did not want his followers to adopt theories which could not be verified by empirical observation. He said, “You must accept my words after examining them and not merely out of regard for me”. (3) He was never ready to accept views on the authority of others. (4)
The Buddha taught us to follow the course of panna or wisdom and practice karuna or compassion. According to his teachings, a man is judged not by creeds he professes or the insignia he puts on or the slogan he shouts, but by his sacrificial work and brotherly out-look. Man is a weak creature. He is subject to old age, sickness and death. Out of ignorance and pride he disparages the sick, the aged and the death, he would be going injustice to himself. We must not look down upon or find fault with the man who is found limping or stumbling along the road, for we are quite ignorant of the shoe he wears or burdens he bears. If we have the real understanding of what pain is we become the brothers of all who suffer.
Buddhism is a great peace establishing force in the world. The Buddhist Panca-Sila teaches us to change our nature. It prohibits killing under any circumstances. Since it is beyond our power to give life, we stand no right to take life. It lays emphasis on respecting other person’s property. It intensely hates the life of unchastely and of falsehood. It prohibits the use of intoxicants. As soon as the principle of Panca-Sila is adopted a marked change will take place in man’s out-look. Today, when the whole world is in the grip of great troubles, the teachings of the Buddha give us a voice of hope. He says that it is difficult to establish peace by methods of war. “Victory breeds hatred, the conquered live in the sorrow”. (5) War results into a vicious circle of hatred, oppression, subversive movements, and false propaganda”. Never in this world can hatred. It can be conquered by non-hatred. (6) Man must give up the idea of being warlike and become non-violent. We must develop in our hearts the spirit of love, fraternity and fellowship in order to break through the encircling gloom and bring about a new alignment of man’s relation to man, of race to race, of nation to nation. The Buddha’s policy of peace, kindness, charity and sacrifice finds expression in the following lines from the Mahabharata: “One should conquer anger by cool-headedness, evil by good, miserliness by charity and falsehood by truth”. (7)
The spirit of peace, kindness, charity and sacrifice worked wonders in bringing about tremendous change in the lives of many a saint in medieval India. The great mind of modern India, too, have been guided by the teachings of the Buddha. The life and teachings of the Buddha exercised a great influence on Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the India Nation. He turned into action the principle of Satyagraha in his private and public life. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, repeatedly declared in clarion voice his firm belief in peaceful settlement of disputes at home and abroad. This goes to show that India is not in favor of joining any power bloc. The foreign policy of the India Government is based on the five rules of conduct, Panca-Sila. We have already seen this Panca-Sila is a Buddhism term, which permits the peaceful co-existence between people holding different ideologies. When the principle of Buddhist Panca-Sila is applied to the international plane, it takes the form of a code on international morality requiring us to practice non-aggression, non-interference, peaceful, cooperative, educative co-existence.
The two world wars have produced great social upheavals. The result is that the insecurity of the human predicament is seriously and widely felt. We live in such an age in which we suffer from loneliness, anxiety and a loss of certainties. How can we feel secure in a world where very little seems to be secure? How can we gain awareness which may bring freedom and courage? How can we find out a new center of strength and courage within ourselves which will get us out of the grip of insecurity? It is the Buddha who points to the best way for our riding from darkness, ignorance, death to light, wisdom and morality. This world of samsara is not all. We can have the perfect knowledge of truth by experience.
Buddhism does not put hindrances in the way of human progress and development by its rigidity in thought and legalism in morality. It encourages the development of human though, human virtues and human beauty. It teaches us to go beyond the boundaries of caste and race which tarnish the whole human community. It teaches us to feed the hungry, nurse the sick, lift the down-trodden and love even our enemies. It tells us to strive for binding the wounds of the suffering world. It tells us to build abiding peace rooted in justice, it enjoins us to avoid the two extremes of pursuit of worldly desires and severe ascetic practice culminating in the annihilation of the body. It helps us to adopt a middle course between the two extremes. According to Buddhism, desire, or Tanha, is the root of all evil. Therefore, it must be gotten rid of. In order to live an ideal life and ultimately attain Nibbana, the summum bonum, it is essential to tread the eight-fold Noble Path and practice Sila, Samadhi and Panna, the three important rungs of the ladder leading to Nibbana.
In the words of Dr. Radhakrisnan: “Now that the nations have come to each other’s doorsteps, we have to develop new methods of human relationships. If civilization is to endure, understanding among people is essential. The world has got together as a body, it is groping for its soul. We need psychological unity, spiritual coherence. We are eager to promote peace and concord among men through several international agencies. The U. N., I.L.O., UNESCO. Who are some of them? If we can have a United Nations Organization, cannot we have a United
Religions Organization? Unfortunately, while all religions proclaim faith in righteous living, international peace and the brotherhood of men, they are unwilling to cooperate with one another. They compete with one another and keep their followers apart. The world has shrunk and different religions are facing one another. To get them into a fellowship is an imperative necessity. Though we may have our special loyalties, we may appreciate whatever is true, noble, lovely and of good report. We do not propose an eclectic religion. We do not encourage the merging together of different faiths into a vague synthetic creed. We wish to bring the followers of different faiths together, is promote goodwill and understanding among them, help them to see that each faith in its own way is attempting to transform the animal man into Godman. The ascent of man from the animal to the human, from the human to the spiritual, from unrest to serenity, from darkness into radiance, is the aim of religion. “Furthermore, at a time like this when we live in fear of the future on account of the great advances of science and technology, it is essential for all those who have faith in the wisdom and love of God, whatever may be their religious denominations, to get .redemption of man”. And again, “People like the Buddha are wiser forever. The best memorials to him are the lives well lived in the dharma. If it is taken seriously, the Buddha’s teaching requires a new alignment of man’s relation to man, of nation to nation, of race to race”. If we do not change out ways the night of spiritual blindness will descend upon us, the gains of science and the glories of culture will be lost, and man will revert to barbarism. The Buddha gives us hope of transforming the present world into a gentler, kinder and jester place. What we are lacking in is faith, faith in the spirit of man, in the invincibility of right eousness.
YATO DHARMAS TATO JAYAH
b) Non-interference in internal affairs of others.
c) Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
d) Peaceful co-existence.
e) Equality and mutual benefit.